I know this is a little late. A few weeks ago, the #metoo movement swept through facebook and social media of both women and men chiming in on the violation against themselves at the hands of others. With all of these stories about the Harvey Weinsteins, the Kevin Spaceys and, the Louis C. K.s we are hearing about all of these situations where they have been the perpetrators in someone elses’ nightmares, and I have had mine in my life.
It took me a while to post about this, I’ve had some version of this post in my drafts for a while, and I’m pushing myself to finally re-write and publish it because maybe my voice will help someone see a perspective that isn’t their own. I honestly could write a whole book on the weird, uncomfortable, creepy, and sexually innappropriate things that I have had to deal with at the hands of guys. From having that weird guy in my grade ten English class thinking it’s a game to through things from different angles down my shirt to having a guy who I should have been able to trust caress along my groin after I said no. These are some of my stories, and by baring these difficult parts of my soul, I hope that some of you will see, this isn’t okay and this isn’t normal to treat anyone like this.
I apologize, this isn’t going to be eloquent or easy to write, it’s going to be long too, but my voices matters, and I hope that if you read my story and you have found yourself complicit in situations like these, that you know to stand up next time. That your voice against these acts matter, and that you’re totally capable of making that change.
In high school, I always felt like an ugly duckling. I didn’t date much, though I had a few guys who had a crush on me (apparently, I had like no idea) though I did date a few guys. I didn’t really get a whole lot of attention, except for the guys that I dated and from the weird guy throwing things down my shirt. When I turned eighteen and had my first job in public service, it was like I went from being that ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, and it was because I was receiving some weird attention from guys. At the time, I just thought I was flourishing, and some of it was that, and it was fine. Other times it wasn’t.
I had guys start coming to the restaurant in the food court I worked for regularly, and it didn’t matter that I was barely a legal adult. I had a guy that was 26 at the time who had asked me out to go down to a bar with him, and when I told him I was underage, his next response was to just hang out somewhere where it wouldn’t matter if I was legal or not. At the time I thought it was kind of funny, but looking back on it, that was a really creepy and weird thing and should have made me feel infinitely more uncomfortable.
I had another guy who was probably about 28 when I was nineteen who started to come in regularly, and thought because I had learned his order and knew his name that I was into him. The amount of regulars who’s orders and names I knew was numerous, so it wasn’t like it was anything special with him. One day he showed up about ten minutes before I got off of work, I don’t know how he found out, but I knew he did it intentionally because he asked me if I would join him for lunch. I respectfully declined, and felt like I had to leave out a back way as not to get stopped by him on my way out.
There was a point in time when I would have a couple of guys come in who worked at the gym down the food court as personal trainers. They were the types of guys who had the mentality that because they worked in a gym that they were all of that, and then some. I’m happy to say that I know not all of personal trainers are like this, one of my best guy friends is one, and he’s the sweetest and he treats his ladies with respect, and knows that if he didn’t he would hear it from me. These two guys though, they always thought it was hilarious to make sexually inappropriate jokes to the girl who was making their lunch. When I was ringing them up for their order and told them to insert the chip because the machine was ready they would make a crude joke and laugh. This wasn’t even a one time thing, it was daily, and it was disgusting and weird and even after seeing them recently, those old feelings of being uncomfortable was still there.
Then I started college I had to change up my schedule at work and ended up working only one morning a week before going to my afternoon classes, and when a new guy at the construction crew who were regulars came in. After one interaction with me, he thought it was appropriate to find me on facebook, add me and message me, asking to hang out. I should also note that I never, ever told him my name and I didn’t wear a name tag, so that alone made me uncomfortable with him.
There was a guy who had to have been at least 50, into some serious drug issues who also delivered the pitas to our store daily that I had an issue with. He would constantly stare at me like I was something to eat, to the point where my bosses would hide me behind the front counter while he was there. He constantly was leaving his personal number for me on the receipts, and if he didn’t see me, was asking about where I was. Eventually it got so bad and to the point that my bosses had requested a different delivery person, and then went with a whole new pita source.
We also had a regular customer who came in once a week with his girlfriend, and later I ended up going to the same college at the same time as them, and at the time of them being customers I wasn’t uncomfortable. It wasn’t until he had caught me on the bus to school one morning, sat next to me and proceeded to talk about how attracted he was to me. How every time I would walk by him he would admire my shape and appreciate the way my body looked. He told me personal details about how he had cheated on his girlfriend before, and it made me feel weird and uncomfortable, as if he was hinting that I should cheat with him. Just an FYI, I am not that person, and I absolutely refuse to be a willing participant in the hurt and destruction of another person.
I mean, there was a point in time while I was working there where I was harassed by a guy for about a year and a half. A lot had happened there, and it’s not something I’m going to go into again, but if you’re curious, you can read about it here.
I wish I could say all of my situations were caused by some random dudes that weren’t significant at all to me, but unfortunately that’s not the case. A few years ago, while I was in college, I dated this guy. I feel he was manipulative, and in general just an overly sexual person. I mean, the very reason we broke up was because I wasn’t willing to “put out”. Our conversation basically went, “I’m not interested in having that type of relationship with you right now.” and they said, “Well I can’t live without it.” and my response was, “Well I can.” as I walked out of the door. As I stepped into the hallway and I looked back, I saw him tearing up, and in that initial moment, I felt bad, and as time went on and his actions afterwards showed, it was what I think was a manipulation tactic to try and get me to change my mind.
You can applaud at my strength in that moment for walking away from a guy who tried to give me an ultimatum, but it didn’t come without a price. Because you see, while I was in this relationship, I was put in situations where I was uncomfortable, there was no consent when it came to how I was touched, and treated. At the time I had chalked it up to it just being what “boyfriends do” because honestly, I never dated much. I thought it was what was expected, despite it making me uncomfortable. And it wasn’t until I was dating someone new that I realized, acknowledged and admitted out loud to him that I was sexually assaulted. Where I laid ground rules, and said, “Hey, these are the things I am okay with, anything else, please, just ask for consent.”
I imagine this college boyfriend doesn’t even realize that what he did was sexual assault, in fact, if he were to read this, having his perspective, he probably would think that he did nothing wrong. You see, I made it clear to him that I wasn’t an overly touchy-feely person, especially in the beginning of relationships and I learned that he didn’t like the word, “no.” I remember, sitting in the photo studio with all of my new classmates, colleagues and friends, sitting at a table while people where shooting. I remember him sitting beside me while one of my classmates was on the other side. The hem of my t-shirt had risen above the waist of my jeans after stretching, and this guy decided that it was perfectly acceptable to place his finger under the waist of my jeans and try to caress my hip bone from underneath.
My way of standing up for myself in that moment was simply to pull the hem of my shirt back down, moving his hand away from my waist. I was horrified, especially because that was a moment where I had half of the people I would be working with for the next two years in the same room and felt that it was such an inappropriate gesture. To top it off, as I was pulling my shirt back down, he had this look that told me that he was offended that I didn’t want that advance.
I wish I could say that this was the only time that day that he tried something, but no. Later on, he walked me to my locker where I was getting what I needed to go to my next class, and he thought it was appropriate to grab my ass while I was in the middle of the hallway at college. For some people, that is okay, but after knowing me for a couple weeks and we weren’t even ‘officially dating’ at this point, we were in what I call a ‘flirtationship’. When I just ignored it, because of how he reacted when I rejected his advance with the waist of my jeans, he got upset and offended again.
You see, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t realize what it was and I thought it was all normal. And those things most certainly can be in healthy wonderful relationships, don’t get me wrong. It’s when those lines and boundaries haven’t been established that you can never be sure and that you need to have some form of consent before proceeding.
Again, I wish I could tell you these were the only times that I felt violated or uncomfortable with this guy, but it’s not. I remember being at his apartment, just the two of us watching a movie on his laptop. I should tell you that we were sitting on his bed, solely because his apartment was so small and there was literally no where else to sit. Before the movie had started, I told him that I wasn’t feeling well, that my period cramps were really bad. I ended up laying next to him basically in the fetal position while he sat with the movie on. Once the movie had finished, he closed up his laptop and laid next to me, and that’s when he thought it was okay to start to touch me inappropriately. He caressed the underside of my thigh, crossing over my crotch, and I froze for a moment, terrified. Then I reiterated that I wasn’t feeling well, and that maybe I should head home.
I know that there are more moments with this guy in particular that I can’t even remember because I have blocked them out. I purposely choose to forget because they’re easier to than these three instances I wrote about. What blows my mind though, is that his classmates and friends knew what he was like and didn’t warn me. I’m thankful though, that after everything that happened, despite not knowing the details, at least from my perspective, they still apologized and I consider them friends.
Even in my current job, I’ve had weird and uncomfortable interactions with male customers. I currently have an all female leadership team, and I know of a few that would proudly put a guy in place if I had called them to the scene in those situations, but because I work with the public, it’s hard to know when to call for help from a creepy customer and when to just let it slide despite being uncomfortable.
I mean, a while I go I was helping a male customer place an order to ship back home to Ontario, he made a comment about how he’d like to package me up and send me to his home, all in the name of a joke. What is even more disgusting, is that this 40 or 50 year old man said this in front of his mother, and I’m thankful she called him out on it, but he brushed it off and just said that he was joking. Here’s the thing, even when someone is called out for being disgusting, they laugh and brush it off because “it’s just a joke” and “isn’t a big deal” but if the stories shared here and elsewhere aren’t enough, what will be?
I’m telling you now, sexual comments, harassment, assault isn’t something to laugh or scoff at. Listen to the voices those who are speaking their truth and their stories. I’ve had to hear after the fact of people I love having comments said to them like, “I like it when a girl is on her knees” while she’s on her knees cleaning up a mess in the kids department. Or the countless other stories that I have had to hear that absolutely break my heart.
So here is my voice, here is my story, here is my “Me Too.” I have other stories, and I bet if know a girl, she probably has so many too. Listen with your heart, and stand up for your friends, both male and female, who tell their stories, they’re not easy to tell. I should know.